Ted Bundy had two diametrically opposing sides to his personality: that of a cold-blooded killer who stalked, bludgeoned, and murdered dozens of unsuspecting women and that of a happy family man who spent his weekends heading to the park or zoo.
For years after he began dating his long-time love Elizabeth Kloepfer, usually referred to by her pen name, "Elizabeth Kendall," in 1969, he helped raise her daughter, who has been known publicly by multiple pseudonyms, including “Tina” in Elizabeth's 1981 book, “The Phantom Prince: My Life With Ted Bundy,” and “Molly” in the latest Bundy biopic, “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,” directed by Joe Berlinger.
It's always difficult to imagine what it would be like to learn a loved one is actually a ruthless killer, a subject explored in Oxygen's new special "Living with a Serial Killer," airing Wednesday, April 14, Thursday, April 15, and Friday, April 16 at 9/8c on Oxygen as part of a special nine-night event Serial Killer Week. People discuss what it was like to find out a father or a husband was a serial killer and the shocking aftermath.
That's exactly what happened to Molly and Elizabeth. But while the public continues to be fascinated by Bundy — Molly’s one-time father figure — little is known about Molly’s life today or how her time with the killer shaped who she is now.
What we do know is Molly is said to be living in Washington and is “in a good place,” according to comments Berlinger made to Vanity Fair after meeting with her and her mother for the film. Molly and Elizabeth also were interviewed for for a five-part series on Amazon, “Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer,” and with ABC 20/20, that aired in early 2020.
Ted Bundy As A Father Figure
Molly was just a toddler when Elizabeth met Bundy in 1969. Elizabeth had recently moved to Seattle after divorcing Molly’s father, who was a convicted felon — something Elizabeth didn’t find out until she was already married.
“I was amazed and pleased at how much Ted liked our domestic scene,” Elizabeth wrote in the book. “He seemed hungry for family life.”
The trio strolled down the main street in the University District, ate Chinese food in the International District, fed the ducks at a local park, and headed to the area’s nearby lakes. On Saturday mornings, Bundy would watch cartoons and make breakfast with Molly while Kloepfer slept in.
“Talking and eating and taking care of (Molly) and sleeping together all flowed along so effortlessly that we had become a family,” Elizabeth wrote in the book.
Bundy himself also recalled the time fondly in tapes played in the Netflix docu-series “Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes" (also directed by Berlinger), telling journalists Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth it was a “whole new dimension to living that I had never seen before.”
The ease with which Bundy appeared to embrace domestic life was apparent to others as well.
Berlinger told The Deseret News that while he was preparing for “Extremely Wicked” he visited Elizabeth and was given access to her personal photo albums from that time.
“There was this nice family unit of three going sailing, going camping, going hiking, having birthday parties, but that male figure was Ted Bundy,” he said, adding that the photos were reminiscent of his own family snapshots.
Elizabeth's family also liked Bundy, with her mother’s only criticism being that she thought he could be too hard on Molly.
The trio spent less time together after Bundy moved to Utah to attend law school; however, Bundy continued to a be a regular fixture in their lives as they spent holidays together and frequently visited.
On one occasion, Molly helped Bundy surprise Elizabeth with a visit by hiding him in her bedroom so that he could pop out and surprise Elizabeth when she came home from work.
“He and (Molly) were pleased with themselves and their surprise,” she wrote.
But soon the illusion of Bundy being a normal family man began to unravel, as police started to suspect Bundy may be responsible for a series of heinous murders of college co-eds in Washington, Oregon, and Colorado.
There were other signs something was amiss, too, Molly revealed in the 2020 updated version of “The Phantom Prince: My Life With Ted Bundy.”
Molly alleged Bundy once played hide-and-seek with her while he was naked and he had an erection.
She also said she remembers Bundy being very physical with her—tickling her and carrying her—and that she was often unsettled by the placement of his hands.
There were other times over the years that Molly questioned his motives — like when she was hit in the face with a football or knocked to the ground while they were walking — but Bundy always denied any intentional wrongdoing and claimed the incidents had been an accident.
"Each time, I felt he had done it on purpose, but I chose to believe his explanations for why I was wrong," she wrote.
Molly added Bundy always made it difficult for anyone to question him and often used "gaslighting" to manipulate the women in his life.
“You were always wrong if you thought Mr. Perfect could have had any ill intent whatsoever,” she wrote. “You ended up feeling bad for questioning the integrity of such a marvelous person.”
After Bundy headed to jail for his crimes, Elizabeth and Molly were left to reassemble their lives.
“The fury of whatever plagued Ted has destroyed a beautiful man and taken many, many lives with it,” Elizabeth wrote. “I say ‘whatever’ because I am uncomfortable discussing the evil power that I know exists. I don’t like to talk about it, partly because I don’t want to sound like a fanatic, but mostly because it has come too close to mangling my life.”
So why Bundy kill so many women but spare Elizabeth and Molly?
Molly explained to "20/20," “I heard a story told by one of his attorneys he had. He said Ted told him that he would play games with these animals, I don’t remember if they were mice or something else. And he would let some of them live and some of them die, and to me, that’s us, we’re just these mice that were allowed to live."
Molly revealed she also made sure Bundy didn't get a final message to her mother before he was scheduled to die. When she saw Bundy wrote Elizabeth a letter shortly before his execution, Molly burned it.
“It was like this person over thousands of miles had been able to intuit what she would have wanted to hear and there was no way I was going to let him have that hook into her again, there was no way,” Molly said in "Ted Bundy: Falling For a Killer." " [...] I am not sorry at all and I am especially not sorry that he went to his death wondering why she never wrote back.”
Avoiding The Spotlight
Elizabeth shared her story in her memoir published in 1981, but then she and her daughter slipped away from the public’s view. Little is known about the years they spent after Bundy was convicted.
Both did agree to participate in Berlinger’s re-telling of the story and met with Berlinger and Lily Collins, who portrays Kloepfer in the film.
“She was so gracious. Her and her daughter, Molly, were so gracious in inviting me in and giving me material to look at and speaking to me and just allowing me to ask questions,” Collins told the hosts of “This Morning” on ITV in an interview promoting the movie.
Berlinger told Vanity Fair that both Elizabeth and her daughter also visited the set of the movie, but asked to come during a day when the cast was shooting a happy scene. They came on the day Zac Efron, who plays Bundy, and Collins filmed the scene where the couple met at a Seattle-area bar.
“It was very touching to see her, Zac, Lily and Molly interacting,” he told the magazine.
Berlinger said both women still have “a hard time processing” everything that happened in the years since they met the charismatic killer.
“It took a lot of trust for them to meet with us,” he said. “They still haven’t seen the film, and don’t want to see the film, and don’t want to do press for the film. Elizabeth still has a hard time with it.”
While Berlinger said the trauma is still difficult for the women, he believes Elizabeth is pleased the story was re-told through her perspective in the latest film to chronicle the killer’s deadly deeds.
“It’s still a painful experience. But I think, generally speaking, they’ve moved on with their lives and are both in a good place,” he said.
Molly confirmed in "Ted Bundy: Falling For a Killer" she does not blame her mother for what happened.
“You know, nobody sets out to drag their child through this and it has to be a terrible feeling that this all went so wrong and I know that she did the very best that she could and I don’t have any feelings of blame or anything like that about it,” she said. “It wasn’t her fault, but it was a really challenging time for me.”
To learn more about serial killers' loved ones, watch Oxygen's new special "Living with a Serial Killer," airing Wednesday, April 14, Thursday, April 15, and Friday, April 16 at 9/8c on Oxygen as part of a special nine-night event Serial Killer Week.
Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for our Crime Time Newsletter and subscribe to our true crime podcast Martinis & Murder for all the best true crime content.